Fight to end child marriage must be scaled up: experts

Tue Mar 10, 2015 11:56pm EDT
 
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By Lisa Anderson

UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Advocates against child marriage need to step up efforts to maintain progress against the practice as the world's youth population swells, experts at a United Nations panel said on Tuesday.

Child marriage, which ensnares about 10 million girls under the age of 18 every year, is banned in 88 percent of countries, but the practice persists in many parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Awareness of the problem has grown in recent years, as has knowledge about the best strategies to combat it, but the new challenge is to scale up the effort, said Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF's deputy executive director.

"We must aim to effect the lives of not a few hundred or a few thousand but millions of girls," she said at a panel on the second day of the two-week-long U.N. 59th Commission on the Status of Women.

With the world population of people aged 10 to 24 at a historic 1.8 billion, efforts to end early marriage must be boosted to avoid losing ground where progress has been made, experts said.

One tool in that fight is to ensure that eradicating child marriage is confirmed as a target of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) expected to be adopted by the U.N. in September, Gupta said.

Currently, ending child marriage is listed as a target under the fifth point in the proposed SDGs that calls for achieving gender equity and empowering women and girls.

In the next few months, she said, "we need to make sure we seal the deal."   Continued...